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The Gulf war

An armed conflict broke out between Iraq and a coalition of forces led by the United States in January 1991, following Iraq's invasion into Kuwait and its refusal to withdraw.

india Updated: Jan 28, 2005 15:13 IST

An armed conflict broke out between Iraq and a coalition of forces led by the United States in January 1991, following Iraq's invasion into Kuwait and its refusal to withdraw. This war is referred to as the Gulf War with Iraq on one side and a coalition of 32 nations including US, UK, France and Saudi Arabia on the other.

The war had its origin in Iraq's invasion of the neighbouring country of Kuwait on August 2, 1990. Iraq invaded Kuwait, alleging that it was damaging its economy by overproduction of crude oil and illegally pumping oil from Rumaila oil field, located in Southern Iraq.

Iraq's invasion of Kuwait evoked sharp reactions from the world with most nations denouncing it and urging Iraq to immediately withdraw its forces. Threatened by the military might of Saddam Hussain and considering him to be a expansionist in the region, Saudi Arabia approached the US to get its oil reserves secured.

The United States which shared a strong military relation with the Saudi Arabia moved its forces to Saudi on August 7, 1990 to protect Saudi oil reserves. The US also used Saudi Arabia as its base anticipating future military action against Iraq.

The Iraqi invasion was taken up in the United Nations, which on November 29, 1990 set a deadline of January 15, 1991 for peaceful withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Kuwait. Saddam Hussain refused to comply with the UN directives and the deadline to withdraw. This led to air strikes from the US led coalition and the launch of "Operation Desert Storm" from January 18, 1991.

The US led coalition resorted to a massive pounding of Iraqi targets damaging infrastructure in Iraq. Iraq retaliated with its limited capability and Scud missiles in Kuwait and Israel but it could not inflict much casualty on civilian or military targets. Almost a month into the war the coalition forces invaded Kuwait and South Iraq on February 24. Within a few days the resistance of Iraqi soldiers dissipated and they surrendered to the coalition forces or fled.

US President George Bush (Senior) announced a cease-fire after the surrender of Iraqi forces on February 28, 1991.

Iraqi President Saddam Hussain remained unfazed even after the defeat of his forces and the war only intensified his animosity towards the United States. Then came the issue of weapons of mass destruction that were said to be in possession by Iraq and the United Nations decided to inspect the suspected Iraqi weapons manufacturing sites to identify and destroy the weapons of mass destruction.

The United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) was formed for identifying and destroying the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Inspection by UN team turned out to be a major controversy with Iraq charging the UNSCOM team with spying and serving the US agenda. The US in turn accused Iraq of not co-operating with the UNSCOM and hiding its chemical and biological weapons site.

The US coalition resorted to air strikes against Iraq in 1993 for its reluctance to cooperate with the UN inspectors. The coalition forces again resorted to aerial bombing in 1994 following reports of an Iraqi troop build-up along Kuwait border. With Iraq's refusal midway into the UNSOM inspection air strikes were launched against it by the US and British forces again in 1998 and 1999.

First Published: Nov 18, 2002 17:38 IST